The New York Legislature took a step toward funding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital program last week when Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, proposed tolling the Harlem and East River bridges and imposing a payroll tax. No legislation has been introduced, however, though lawmakers in both chambers are reviewing a draft program bill from Gov. David Paterson.
Silver’s proposal differs from that of the so-called Ravitch Commission in that the tolls would be the same as a one-way fare on the subway system — currently $2 — as opposed to matching tolls at other major MTA bridges where the fare is currently $4.15.
“The speaker believes very strongly that everyone in the region benefits from a strong and effective public transportation system,” spokesman Dan Weiler said. “It’s the economic lifeblood of the city. This way everyone shares in the benefits, everyone shares in the costs.”
The governor’s program bill, which is based on the recommendations of the Ravitch Commission, calls for the creation of the MTA Capital Finance Authority, which would have the authority to issue bonds and notes. Dedicated revenue from tolling on the Harlem and East River bridges and a payroll tax would be placed into a fund controlled by the authority and segregated from other MTA funds.
The agency could use up to $100 million in the fund in a given fiscal year to pay debt service on bonds, notes, or other obligations. Queries to the state Division of Budget as to whether the $100 million was intended to be a cap on total annual debt service were not returned by press time.
Money in the fund could be used for operating costs or other capital costs only if debt service and reserve requirements were satisfied, according to the draft bill.